While a majority of Americans (58%) believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society, the American public is closely divided on the question of whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry legally. According to a recent study,46% of people oppose same-sex marriage and 45% support it. These divisions extend to both political parties.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press’ 2011 Political Typology study finds that within the Republican coalition 85% of Staunch Conservatives and 72% of Main Street Republicans (who differ from Staunch Conservatives in the degree of their conservatism) oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally. But Libertarians, who side with Republicans on economic issues and the party’s criticism of big government, are almost as evenly split as the general public( 45% oppose same-sex marriage, 43% support it).

Looking at Democrats and the groups that often side with them, 85% of Solid Liberals support allowing gay and lesbians to marry legally, as do 80% of Post-Moderns. The latter group is classified as being “mostly independent,” but its members are very liberal on social issues and strongly supported Barack Obama in 2008. Two other groups in the Democratic coalition are arrayed on the opposite side on the question of legalizing same-sex marriage: New Coalition Democrats, a majority-minority group that is highly religious, and Hard-Pressed Democrats, who are largely blue-collar and are socially conservative and religious. New Coalition Democrats oppose same-sex marriage by a 51% to 34% margin, and Hard-Pressed Democrats oppose it by a 57% to 32% margin.

Use this link to see the profiles for each group described in the political typology. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.